Learn to play Erik Satie's "Gymnopédie No. 1"
Play It Like a Pro!
For intermediate and advanced guitarists.
THIS IS WHAT YOU GET IN THE PLAY IT LIKE A PRO™
"GYMNOPÉDIE NO. 1" PACKAGE
THIS PACKAGE CONSISTS OF ELEVEN SCORES:
1. The Complete Annotated Tutorial Score (100 pages, 172 musical examples, with links to 39 videos).
This score contains detailed instructions on how to play this beautiful piece with pro-level execution. Includes detailed measure-by-measure instructions with dozens of left and right-hand fingering options, chord voicing options, and technical advice on how to execute each measure successfully. In standard notation plus standard notation and TAB.
To navigate, click on the arrows in the music example
or use the right/left arrows on your keyboard.
To close, click anywhere outside the image or the X below the music.
2. The Structural Form Score.
This score shows how the piece is constructed to help you make better decisions on how you want to interpret the piece.
3. The Annotated Interpretation Score.
This score provides you with dozens of options for dynamics and tempo changes. I discuss the use of rubato, vibrato, the right-hand "slicing" technique, transparent vs. resonant fingerings, and choice of tempo and key. This information is essential for you to understand and capture the essence of this beautiful piece.
4. Douglas Niedt's Transcription of Gymnopédie No. 1.
Hopefully, you will develop your own transcription of the piece, but perhaps my version will provide you with a starting point. My version is almost identical to Christopher Parkening's version. In standard notation and standard notation plus TAB.
5. The Piano Score on One Staff, Transposed to the Guitar Key.
This score will make it easier for you to see and understand the options you have in translating the chord voicings in the piano score to the guitar.
6. The Basic Score with No Fingering.
The score with no fingering so you can write in your own. In standard notation only.
7. Complete Piano Score of Trois Gymnopédies.
Whenever you play a transcription, it is essential to have the score of the original instrument for reference.
8. Satie's Original Autograph Score of Trois Gymnopédies.
Pages 2-9 are hard to read, but I thought you would enjoy seeing it.
9. Claude Debussy's orchestration of Gymnopédies No. 1 and 3.
The score provides insight into interpreting the piece on the guitar.
(Note that Debussy renumbered "Gymnopédie No. 1" as No. 2 in his orchestra score).
PLUS, THE PACKAGE CONTAINS 39 INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEOS!
Doug's 39 detailed instructional videos contain FOUR-AND-A-HALF HOURS of instructional video and will help you play "Gymnopédie No. 1" like a pro. Doug demonstrates how to play the piece measure by measure.
These are not "put your finger here and then put your finger there" type videos. Doug explains all the technical and musical details required to play the piece on a professional level.
Sample Instructional Video #7 for "Gymnopédie No. 1," measures 5-8
Watch it in high definition on full screen:
- Click the Play Button.
- In the lower right, click the gear icon, click "Quality," and in the dropdown list, choose 1080p (best) or 720p.
- For fullscreen, (go ahead, make it spectacular!) click the rectangle on the lower right.
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You can download the PDF files (with links to the videos) to your computers and devices.
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"These are the best classical guitar video/internet lessons with the finest hi-tech production on the planet. But, if you are not satisfied with a course, I will refund your money. Just tell me why you did not like it so I can make it better for others."
Douglas Niedt is a seasoned, successful concert and recording artist and highly respected master classical guitar teacher with 50 years of teaching experience. He is Associate Professor of Music (retired), at the Conservatory of Music and Dance, University of Missouri-Kansas City and a Fellow of the Henry W. Bloch School of Management—Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
Doug studied with such diverse masters as Andrés Segovia, Pepe Romero, Christopher Parkening, Narciso Yepes, Oscar Ghiglia, and Jorge Morel. Therefore, Doug provides solutions for you from a variety of perspectives and schools of thought.
He gives accurate, reliable advice that has been tested in performance on the concert stage that will work for you at home.
“Gymnopédie No. 1” is marked “slow and painful” and projects the peculiarly French ennui, the hard-to-translate feeling that mixes fatigue and boredom tinged with melancholy.
It captures the quintessentially French traits of simplicity, clarity, precision, elegance, and economy. The result is atmospheric and ethereal music that evokes the sensation of floating on clouds. With sublime, hypnotic simplicity, this music alters our perception of time. Each chord seems to float in midair, intoning a far-off lament.
Satie's hauntingly beautiful floating melodies and modal tonalities are unforgettably compelling, combining bygone classical ages with Parisian sophistication. “Gymnopédie No. 1” was published on August 18, 1888, by Satie’s father, Alfred Satie, in La Musique des familles.
and how in the world do you pronounce it?
How are three people pronouncing "gymnopédie."
There is much speculation regarding how Satie came up with the unusual title “Gymnopédie.” Some writers claim the source to be J. P. Contamine de Latour’s poem “Les Antiques,” in which the word “gymnopédie” appears. This claim is backed by the fact that the first version of “Gymnopédie No. 1” was published in 1888 in La Musique des familles, a magazine where Latour’s poem appeared, too.
However, Satie was familiar with the word before that. According to Eric Frederick Jensen, in his article “Satie and the ‘Gymnopédie” (Music & Letters, May 1994 Vol. 75, No. 2):
“Contamine referred to the introduction of Satie and himself to Rudolph Salis, owner of the Chat Noir [nightclub] by the writer-plumber Vital-Hocquet. The meeting took place in December 1887 [two months before the composition of “Gymnopédie No. 1”]. Vital-Hocquet introduced Satie as ‘Erik Satie, Gymnopédiste,’ to which Salis quipped: ‘Truly a fine profession!’ At the time, wrote Contamine, ‘Satie was already dreaming of his Gymnopédies. To tell the truth, he had found no more than the title, but the strangeness of the word inspired him.’”
Since Contamine does not mention that he previously suggested the word to Satie, it might just as easily have been Satie who supplied the word to Contamine.
So, if Contamine wasn’t the source, where had Satie found the word? Jensen maintains that Satie had no need to invent a new word because it is listed in two standard French music dictionaries of the mid-nineteenth century: Dominque Mondo’s Dictionnaire de musique (Paris, 1839) and another with the same name published by Les Frères Escudier (Paris, 1854).
Jensen writes: “Satie had ready access to music dictionaries: his family was musical (and in the music publishing business), and Satie was himself a student at the Paris Conservatoire for seven years. But he was also [according to Gillmor in his book Erik Satie] ‘an inveterate reader, with a special fondness for anything that struck him as strange and exotic.’ In addition, he took more than a casual interest in dictionaries and encyclopedias…It is not difficult, then, to imagine Satie browsing through a French music dictionary, coming upon the entry for the obscure ‘gymnopédie,’ and being struck by the poetic exoticism of the word.”
Jensen concludes by saying, “The inspiration provided by the word…produced poignant music evocative of another time and another place.”
Both dictionaries cited above define Gymnopédie as “a nude dance, accompanied by song, which youthful Spartan maidens danced on specific occasions.”
Even earlier, in his Dictionnaire de musique (1768), Jean-Jacques Rousseau defines it as “an air or nomos [a genre of ancient Greek music] to which young Spartan maidens danced naked.”
Modern scholarship tells us that “Gymnopédie” comes from the French word for “Gymnopaedia,” a Greek word used to describe an annual festival in ancient Sparta in which the participants performed unarmed. For many years, scholars mistranslated the Greek word for “unarmed” as “nude” and erroneously described the participants as nude boys. Modern scholars have not only corrected the mistranslation of “unarmed” but discovered that the festival participants were men of all ages, not just boys.
Unfortunately, you will still find the mistranslation, erroneous description of the festival, and incorrect definition of “gymnopédie” in most books, articles, and CD liner notes.
At the age of 21, Satie left the home of his father in the wake of an affair with the family maid. With 1,600 francs from his father, he rented a large room at 50 rue Condorcet, Paris 9, very close to the Chat Noir cabaret, where he soon gained employment as conductor of the orchestra. Here, in the shadow of La Butte Montmartre, Satie composed his Trois Gymnopédies in February-April 1888.
They are among his best-known works, having served more than any other of his creations to make him known to the general public. Debussy considered them to be so outstanding that he orchestrated the first and third, bringing Satie to the attention of the French musical public. In his book, Satie the Composer, Robert Orledge points out, “This was the only occasion when Debussy orchestrated the work of another composer, which helps put his esteem for Satie in its proper perspective.” He goes on to say, “Contrary to expectation, it was Satie who influenced Debussy, by and large, rather than vice versa.”
These short, atmospheric pieces are written in 3/4 time, each sharing a common theme and structure. Collectively, the Trois Gymnopédies are regarded as an important precursor to modern ambient music — gentle yet somewhat eccentric pieces that, at the time, defied traditional classical harmony.
The melodies of the pieces use deliberate but mild dissonances against the harmony, producing a piquant, melancholy effect that matches the performance instructions, which are to play each piece "slow and painful" (No. 1), "slow and sad," (No. 2), or "slow and grave" (No. 3).
Éric Alfred Leslie Satie (signed his name “Erik Satie” after 1884) was born on May 17, 1866, in Honfleur and died July 1, 1925, in Paris. Satie was a French composer, pianist, and colorful figure in the early twentieth-century Parisian avant-garde. In his book Erik Satie, Alan M. Gillmor writes that “Erik Satie remains, almost 100 years after his death, one of the most curious figures in contemporary music. It is difficult to imagine another twentieth-century composer whose appeal has cut so deeply across the social and aesthetic boundaries of both the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Despite his slender creative output, Satie remains relevant to large numbers of people from seemingly incompatible sectors of society. On the one hand, is the scholarly community, which views the composer as central to any thorough understanding of the belle époche and the Parisian 1920s. On the other are members of the “counterculture,” whether that of the 1960s or whoever may insert themselves into that group today, who see Satie as one of the few “classical” composers outrageous enough to belong in their anti-Establishment world. And then there is the advertising community, which has seen fit to use Satie’s music in pitches for everything from coffee to feminine deodorant.
Hence, Gillmor concludes, Satie is one of those relatively rare cultural phenomena, a creative figure embraced both by the Academy and the mass media, a strange, multifaceted personality who continues to delight, confound, and bemuse.”
Gilmour points out that “Satie’s creative career spanned one of the most fertile and volatile periods in Western cultural history. It was a time of enormous flux and disintegration of traditional values on all fronts—a period of exhilarating creative exploration and freedom for some, of despair and disillusionment for many more, and a belle époque for the privileged few. The ripeness of decay was in the air, but also the hardy seeds of the brave new world to come.
Like all the arts, but in a subtler and more abstract way, music mirrored the decline of the old order, and as the underlying principles of tonality came under attack, the system, like the society that created it, began to break down under the stress of expansion until the inevitable point of disintegration was reached sometime shortly before the outbreak of World War I. The stage was set for the advent of modernism, a veritable orgy of experimentalism in the arts, which, in its most virulent forms, denied the validity of the seemingly immutable laws that had governed the evolution of the classical tradition over the past three centuries.”
“Like much of the music composed from 1890-1920, Satie’s music resists traditional analytical methods and, like the music of Debussy and Charles Ives, requires its own analytical framework. So, although according to the traditional canons of classical aesthetic and music theory, Satie is a ‘flawed’ composer, his effect on the development of twentieth-century music was profound. He had a catalytic effect on the emergence of twentieth-century avant-gardism at least the equal of far more celebrated and accomplished contemporaries such as Debussy, Stravinsky, and Schoenberg. He had a seminal influence on a variety of vanguard movements, such as Cubism, Dadaism, and Surrealism.”
Satie’s chosen path was the pursuit of ultimate simplicity, brevity, and clarity of expression. Unfortunately, it was a path that engendered much hostility and rejection by the musical establishment. His moral courage and self-sacrifice in pursuing it compels admiration.
Gilmour concludes that Satie was “a truly original musician who did more to incorporate material from the other arts and enlarge the experiential boundaries of musical form than possibly any other musician of his time.”
Satie is often misunderstood and underestimated because of his complex and eccentric personality. His wit and acute intelligence were coupled with a delightfully playful and spontaneous imagination. His “oddness” was perhaps a mask for a stoical independence of spirit coupled with an unusual, childlike innocence which set him apart from more sophisticated, “success-oriented” peers. He lived thirty years of his artistic life in solitary meditation, holding worldly transactions for success and fame in contempt.
- His early piano studies did not go well. “Gifted but indolent,” “laziest student on the Conservatoire,” “Worthless. Three months just to learn the piece. Can’t sight-read properly,” are a few of the comments from his professors.
- Satie attacked critic Henry Gauthier-Villars at the Concerts Chevillard on April 10, 1904. Satie was led away by the Municipal Guard even though Gauthier-Villars threw the first punch.
- In 1917, Satie insulted critic Jean Poueigh who brought a libel case against Satie and won. Satie was sentenced to eight days in prison and ordered to pay a fine of 100 francs plus 1000 francs in damages. Satie appealed the sentence and after higher intervention, the sentence was suspended. Fortunately, the Princesse de Polignac helped Satie pay his fine.
- He got his ballet Uspud considered for the Paris Opéra by challenging the director, Eugène Bertrand, to a duel.
- After composing the Trois Gymnopédies, financial circumstances forced Satie to move to a smaller room “out of reach of his creditors.” It was furnished with a bench, table, and chest. He slept on a homemade bed consisting of three boards mounted on a trestle base.
- In July 1896, more financial problems forced Satie into an even smaller room at 6 rue Cortot. It was a tiny ground floor room Satie called “the cupboard,” measuring 6 feet by 4 feet 6 inches by 9 feet high with only a tiny triangular skylight to illuminate it. Visitors had to climb over the bed to get in. His friend, Contamine de Latour recalls, “Satie heaped all the clothes he had onto his counterpane to keep warm, and stayed dressed down to his boots.”
- You might wonder, “Where did Satie keep his piano if he only had this tiny room?” Interestingly, Satie composed entirely in his head. He may have used the pianos of his friends to explore chordal progressions and occasionally wanted to play through works for friends, but other than that, he had little use for an instrument.
- However, in 1898 when his financial situation improved, he moved into a large second-floor room at 22 (now 34) rue Cauchy in the suburb of Arcueil-Cachan. In his book, Satie the Composer, Robert Orledge tells us, “Somehow, from somewhere, Satie acquired two grand pianos for his new room which he placed one on top of the other, the upper one being used as a post-box for unsolicited letters and parcels.”
- In the later 1890s, Satie often spent Friday lunchtime at his friend Debussy’s flat where, according to Satie, Debussy possessed the absolute secret to making eggs and lamb cutlets. Satie had a huge appetite and, according to his brother Conrad, could demolish 150 oysters or an omelet made of 30 eggs in a single sitting!
- Orledge writes that “Satie hated travel and upheaval as much as he hated the telephone and other modern inventions. He never sought to record his music for posterity (as Debussy and Fauré did), he never possessed a radio or listened to one, and he refused to use the Métro.” For such a cutting-edge composer of music, he showed an unexpected distrust of modern technology and the conventional concept of progress. Ony in his music did he have a futuristic vision.
The Musée-Placard d'Erik Satie (Cupboard Museum of Erik Satie) was a miniature museum dedicated to composer Erik Satie (1866–1925). Founded in 1983 and curated by veteran Satie scholar Ornella Volta, it was in the 18th arrondissement of Paris at 6 Rue Cortot, Montmartre, France.
The "cupboard" museum consisted of a small utility room measuring 6 feet by 4 feet 6 inches by 9 feet high with only a tiny triangular skylight to illuminate it. Satie lived in the room from July 1896 to October 1898. From 1890 he had previously occupied a larger room in the same building, but dire poverty forced him to move into this unheated ground floor closet, which the landlord offered him for 20 francs per quarter. The space was so small that Satie's camp bed blocked the door from fully opening, and on frigid nights he kept warm by sleeping fully dressed with the rest of his clothing piled on top of him. He wrote very little music there, primarily the Pièces froides (1897).
Reputedly one of the smallest museums in the world, it was not an actual reconstruction of the composer's prison cell-like living quarters. It displayed items that belonged to Satie, mainly drawings and portraits. Instead of a bed, there was an upright piano, and on one occasion, Volta sponsored an 18-hour performance of Satie's piano piece Vexations there. The audience consisted of guests who were allowed into the room two at a time.
Due to a lack of subsidies, Volta was forced to close the Musée-Placard d'Erik Satie in 2008. She died in 2020 at age 93, having devoted nearly 50 years to researching and writing about Satie's life and works. A commemorative plaque to the composer hangs above the entrance of 6 Rue Cortot.